by Jorge Gomez • 4 min read
We have great news to share in our case involving Stephanie Carter, a nurse practitioner at the Olin E. Teague Veterans Center in Temple, Texas.
We’re happy to report that because of Stephanie’s lawsuit, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) implemented a policy to accommodate all VA employees who have religious objections to being forced to participate in abortions. This is a tremendous victory that has positively impacted not only Stephanie, but thousands of VA employees of faith.
“Stephanie Carter is living proudly by her faith and should not be forced to choose between her faith and her career,” said Danielle Runyan, Senior Counsel for First Liberty Institute. “Because of her courage, every VA employee in the nation can now seek a religious accommodation from participating in a procedure they find unconscionable.”
In January 2023, after we filed Stephanie’s lawsuit, Military.com reported that the VA “specified that employees can ask their supervisor or a ‘reasonable accommodation coordinator’ for a religious exemption to the VA’s recently implemented abortion policy. The department also released the forms coordinators and physicians will use during the request process.”
Military Times also clarified that “under the staff opt-out rules in the new memos, employees who voice religious objections to providing abortion services must be granted accommodations. Supervisors must first attempt to assign the work to other staff. If that isn’t practical, objecting employees may be reassigned to other responsibilities.”
Last fall, the VA introduced a rule immediately allowing elective abortions at its medical facilities. This rule was put into effect despite the fact that Congress has prohibited abortion services at VA clinics for the past 30 years.
Stephanie twice requested an accommodation because she has religious objections to performing, prescribing and providing counseling for abortions – but she was told that no process existed to review such requests. This put her in an impossible situation. She was essentially being forced to choose between violating her conscience or keeping her job. What’s more, our attorneys explained that Stephanie could face a felony conviction, steep civil penalties and even the loss of her nursing license under the unlawful VA rule.
As a result, in December we filed a federal lawsuit on Stephanie’s behalf seeking not only a religious accommodation but also a court ruling that would prevent the VA’s abortion rule from being enforced at her facility. But considering the VA’s new process for religious accommodation and the fact that her religious objections are now largely accounted for, we asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit.
As an Army veteran and as a Christian who views her nursing work as a calling, Stephanie faithfully served our nation’s heroes as a VA employee for 23 years. And now, because the VA is accommodating service members of faith, she is continuing to live proudly by her faith and providing excellent care for her fellow veterans.
Thank you for your support. You are a Force Multiplier in delivering these victories, which have a huge impact on the lives of religious employees, service members and all Americans.